Official: Lions killed after attack near Aspen were brothers
The two young mountain lions killed last weekend after one attacked a boy were almost certainly brothers whose mother likely was recently killed, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife official said.
“I think the mother was probably killed in a road strike,” said Perry Will, area wildlife manager for the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys. “They’re out there fending for themselves.”
The brothers were too young to survive on their own, which made them dangerous because they had no natural fear of humans, he said. They were between 7 and 9 months old and weighed about 40 pounds each.
Meanwhile, a report from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office released Tuesday identified the 5-year-old boy, but The Aspen Times is choosing not to name him out of respect for the family’s privacy, which the family has requested.
The boy was attacked at about 8 p.m. Friday while he was playing in the front yard of his family’s home on Lower River Road below Woody Creek. His mother heard his older brother scream and went outside their home to find the lion under some trees, hunched completely over her son, according to the report and Pitkin County Deputy Michael Buglione.
The mountain lion had the boy’s head in its mouth, Buglione said. His mother then ran up, removed the lion’s paw from her son, reached into the lion’s mouth, pried its jaws open, freed her son and ran away. The boy had a deep laceration on his right cheek, his right eye was swollen shut and part of his scalp was pulled back at the hairline, Buglione said.
A statement from the family released Monday said the boy was “doing better” at Children’s Hospital in Denver. Attempts to reach both parents Tuesday were not successful.
Necropsies on both lions found they didn’t have rabies or plague, and Will said they were not physically injured either. One was found under the tree where the attack occurred and was killed that night. The other was tracked with dogs and killed about 2 a.m. Saturday.
The last mountain lion attack on a human in Colorado occurred in 2015 at Deep Creek near Dotsero, when a young lion jumped a fisherman, Will said. Such attacks “are fairly uncommon,” though this area supports a relatively large lion population, and human-lion conflicts are becoming more common, he said. A mountain lion reportedly killed a 2-year-old dog in Vail in January.
A wildlife officer at Eagle recently told Will that he dealt with more mountain lion-human conflicts in December and January than in the previous 30 years on the job. He said he didn’t know a reason for that, except that the “lion population is doing well.”
When lions injure a person, human health and safety becomes the priority and leads Colorado Parks and Wildlife to kill the animal, according to a statement. The second lion was killed because the agency was “not going to take chances,” according to the statement.
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